Length and amino acid sequence of peptides substituted for the 5-HT3a receptor M3M4 loop may affect channel expression and desensitization

Nicole K. McKinnon, Moez Bali, Myles H. Akabas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


5-HT3A receptors are pentameric neurotransmitter-gated ion channels in the Cys-loop receptor family. Each subunit contains an extracellular domain, four transmembrane segments (M1, M2, M3, M4) and a 115 residue intracellular loop between M3 and M4. In contrast, the M3M4 loop in prokaryotic homologues is <15 residues. To investigate the limits of M3M4 loop length and composition on channel function we replaced the 5-HT3A M3M4 loop with two to seven alanine residues (5-HT3A-A n = 2-7). Mutants were expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes and characterized using two electrode voltage clamp recording. All mutants were functional. The 5-HT EC 50′s were at most 5-fold greater than wild-type (WT). The desensitization rate differed significantly among the mutants. Desensitization rates for 5-HT3A-A 2, 5-HT3A-A 4, 5-HT3A-A 6, and 5-HT3A-A 7 were similar to WT. In contrast, 5-HT3A-A 3 and 5-HT3A-A 5 had desensitization rates at least an order of magnitude faster than WT. The one Ala loop construct, 5-HT3A-A 1, entered a non-functional state from which it did not recover after the first 5-HT application. These results suggest that the large M3M4 loop of eukaryotic Cys-loop channels is not required for receptor assembly or function. However, loop length and amino acid composition can effect channel expression and desensitization. We infer that the cytoplasmic ends of the M3 and M4 segments may undergo conformational changes during channel gating and desensitization and/or the loop may influence the position and mobility of these segments as they undergo gating-induced conformational changes. Altering structure or conformational mobility of the cytoplasmic ends of M3 and M4 may be the basis by which phosphorylation or protein binding to the cytoplasmic loop alters channel function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere35563
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 23 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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